Precious Nuggets of Wisdom


Just when you thought it was safe to wallow safely in your time-honored right to be miserable at work, some over-earnest hick lawyer goes and screws it up again.

This time, the thanks is owed to the recent clueless ramblings of Stephen Ellis, a partner at Tucker, Ellis & West, a Cleveland law firm with less people working in its entire office than certain Big Firms have working in their mailrooms.  In an article adapted from a commencement speech he recently gave at an Ohio law school, Mr. Ellis offers his local-yokel take on the “secret to happiness and success in a lawyer’s life” with “seven simple suggestions.”

The highlights of these simple, yet deeply insightful, suggestions:

“Be enthusiastic about your clients’ matters”;

“Don’t be obnoxious. Do a good job on the law, facts, and strategy, but don’t make it personal”;

“Get ‘outside’ yourself and participate in community events”;

“Believe in your brain”; and, our own personal favorite,

“Be nice.”

While we heartily appreciate Mr. Ellis’s efforts to keep us happy and successful, we can’t help but point out that when you’re a lawyer at a nice little Midwestern firm that no one outside of Ohio has ever heard of, you need to realize that your advice may not have the same sway to a junior associate at, say, Skadden or Cravath.  Sorry, but your idea of success and happiness may be a few acres off from theirs.

But thanks for the tips, though. We’ll be sure to keep them in mind when we’re on our fourth all-nighter in a row on an $8 billion merger for a client that we’ve never even met.

Got a Bitter Rant of your own?  Email it to info@bitterlawyer.com.

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25 Comments

  1. Drew

    August 4, 2008 at 6:16 am

    Now here’s the real question: Will you be keeping these “nuggets of wisdom” in mind when you’re wasting time writing in your blog which no one reads?

  2. Bill

    August 4, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Wow.  Spoken like a true bitter lawyer, Drew!

  3. Yokel

    August 5, 2008 at 6:24 am

    Looks like old Ellis didn’t have to set up a website to bitch about his job, either. Hyuck, hyuck.

  4. Anon

    August 5, 2008 at 10:48 am

    “a partner at Tucker, Ellis & West, a Cleveland law firm with less people working in its entire office than certain Big Firms have working in their mailrooms. “
    Fewer people, not less.

  5. Anonymous

    August 5, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    You have to ask yourself why you are so miserable.  Part of it may be the fact that you are so obsessed with status, and as a result always feel like there is somewhere better to be.
    I hate to get all buddhist, but there may be some truth in the advice that says you can only find happiness if you figure out a way to have a purpose—a purpose outside of being the biggest playa in your immediate circle.
    You can’t ever be the biggest player, because your circle keeps changing as you ascend the status ladder.  You will never attain happiness that way.
    Homeboy in Ohio might have it right.  Get a small gig, get some clients that appreciate you, and live a life dictated by values other than trying to be the guy with the most juice.

  6. Pepe

    August 5, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    All of the comments above except for number 3 illustrate perfectly what total douches most lawyers are…thank you Commenter #2 for catching that grammatical error- be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for that one…this is exactly why I hate the legal profession- the total tools you are forced to work with.

  7. Anon

    August 7, 2008 at 4:49 am

    You guys sound like a bunch of whiny bitches.  Did any of you have a real job before becoming a lawyer?  Fourth all nighter?  At least you work in an office.  Some people dig ditches for a living and get paid a lot less.  If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

  8. big firm snob

    August 7, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    brilliant post anon.  really.  what in god’s name does digging ditches have to do with anything?  please try to be more original next time.  you’re playing with the big boys.

  9. Anon

    August 7, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    @big firm snob
    It means there are people in this world that do harder work than any of you for a lot less money with very little choice in the matter.  You guys chose this profession.  You had the opportunity to come as far as you have, and all you can do is bitch about it.  Cry me a fuckin’ river, puh-lease!  If you don’t like it, do something else.  You have plenty of options.  Otherwise, shut the fuck up about it.  “Big boys” give me a break. . .LOLZ @ u.

  10. Greeny

    August 8, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Anon, you make no sense.  The whole point of this web site is to present a forum for lawyers to laugh and gripe about their big law experiences. 
    I’m at a big NYC firm, and I feel very confident that I work harder than 95% of the people in the country.  I grew up in the midwest, did blue collar work through high school and college.  It’s tough, but it isn’t the same as big firm work.  Not even close.

  11. Anon

    August 8, 2008 at 7:17 am

    @Greeny, If that is your take, then I think you grossly misunderstand the diverse nature of blue collar work and what it entails.  Not to mention you did blue collar work for short periods of time, most likely.  You never made a career out of it for any length of time.  I merely stumbled upon this site, and perhaps it is for a “bitter lawyer’s” entertainment, but it sure makes the lot of you sound like a bunch of whiners.

  12. Greeny

    August 11, 2008 at 9:52 am

    I get tired of hearing how people do harder work than me.  Back home, when someone worked twenty hours of over time (i.e. sixty total hours), it meant that they had a long, hard week.  I’m not knocking blue collar work.  I’m not saying that the people who do it aren’t incredibly hard working.  Because I come from that background, I don’t feel guilted into saying that “so many people work harder than me.” They don’t.  Percentage of Americans that work 80 plus hours a week?
    P.S. Anon, you don’t know me.  I worked 3 years, full-time, in a tool¨shop between the age of 18 and 21.  It was tough.  This requires more.

  13. Anon

    August 11, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Greeny; I don’t know you, I don’t need to know you.  I know your type.  The self centered, insecure type.  Seriously, why are we even arguing about how much work YOU do vs. the rest of the United States in an open forum comments section?  Well, I know I’m arguing because I like to argue.  But what about you?  Lineman work harder than you any day of the week, and they put their life on the line day in and day out for you to have your electricity and/or phone service and/or internet.  They also probably make money than you do, but that’s besides the point.  There are so many profession in this country that are indeed blue collar and involve not only a sacrifice of time to make ends meet, but they do often risk their life for the welfare of others.  Last I checked, unless you’re a DA, that risking of life is not included in the attorney at law job description.  If you want to tell yourself that you do harder work than 95% of the people in this country to validate yourself and make yourself feel better, that is just fine.  It may be incredibly arrogant to run around with that notion in your head, and doubly so to espouse it as a true statistic to the world, but that’s fine.  At least I can understand why you say what you do, and while I may completely disagree with it, can’t respect it, and in fact probably prove statistically your view of the world and your place in it is incorrect…at least I can *understand*.

  14. Greeny

    August 11, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    You’re right, after studying through four years of college, and then killing myself through the beginning of law school and working 80 hours a week, why did I take the easy way?  It would have been so much harder when I was 18 to just pick and keep a job at the factory, where apparently I am risking life and limb every day.  P.S. There is no way in hell that you are a lawyer.

  15. Greeny

    August 11, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Your sentence is also incomplete.  “They probably make money then you.” Are you saying they probably make more or less?  I assure you there is not a lineman in the country who “probably” makes more or less than NYC Big Law.  And since when do “linemen” provide internet service?  Linemen are typically associated with factories that do mass production.  I’d like to see the internet factory where the thousands of linemen show up every day to risk life and limb for their job that shows me what a cake life I have!

  16. Anon

    August 11, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Check the definition of “lineman” in a dictionary.  I think definition #1 will suffice.  To make it easy for you, since you obviously were unable to look up the definition yourself before making your ignorant statement here is a link for you to cut and paste…
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lineman
    For the record, the linemen whom I speak of that qualify for definition number 1 make roughly 100k to 200k a year.  Don’t believe me?  Use those lawyering skills of yours and do the research.  Plus they get full benefits and a hefty retirement.
    Incomplete sentence?  Get over it.  Its not like they allow you to go back and edit your comment once you do find grammatical errors.  You’ve made numerous errors in all your comments all over this wretched site, yet I don’t waste my time pointing them out.  Seriously though, Is that best you’ve got?  “Oh you have an incomplete sentence” LOLZ.  Second, I’m not writing a dissertation for the world to judge.  So stop wanking off about your ability to recognize grammatical errors, and get real here.
    You are not willing to argue a point, you are only willing to argue over your sensitive ego.  You have not only shown your arrogance, now you are showing your ignorance too.  What kind of lawyer are you?  Aren’t lawyers supposed to be well read, and capable of doing excellent research?
    And how can you say I can’t possibly be a lawyer?  You have absolutely no reason to believe that other than the fact I am openly disagreeing with your whiny bitch ass in public.  You continue to take every statement I make, that IS based on actual fact, personal.  Would you please get over yourself, sir?

  17. Anon

    August 11, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Also, Greeny, you are basing every single one of your responses off your own personal experience.  As I said before, blue collar work entails a great deal more than you think, and is far more diverse than that factory job you had when Jesus Christ walked the earth.  I don’t need to justify myself on these claims either.  Simply take a look around at what people do.  Do the research yourself.  Ever work on a fishing boat?  Oh, probably not.  You were too busy working 80 hours a week going through law school and all that.  Next time you eat that fish on your plate, provided it didn’t come from some god awful farm in the Atlantic, think about what it took to get there.  Those guys make bank too if the catch is good.  Probably as much as a lawyer @ a big firm, depends on the circumstances.  They also lose appendages in the process.  But those guys don’t bitch and whine about the hours they work (often three or four days straight on a boat in rough sea).  There are just so many examples I could list here.  I mean, if you were to step out of your role as a lawyer, and attempt to do one of the many jobs I can think of. . . you’d probably have a better appreciation for what it is you do.  Maybe you wouldn’t be so arrogant as to preach to the world that you believe you work harder than 95% of the people in America. you should read Two Years Before the Mast.  There’s someone who knows what hard work is, AND he ended up being a lawyer.  A grad from Harvard actually.

  18. Greeny

    August 12, 2008 at 5:28 am

    I really wasn’t pointing out a mistake in your grammar.  I just didn’t know if you were implying that linemen made more or less.  The sentance was literally lacking the word that gave it meaning.  Lineman is also commonly understood to mean someone who works on an assembly line.  I grew up in a factory town.  That is what people called them.

  19. Anon

    August 12, 2008 at 6:29 am

    As far as I know there is no definition like the one you describe in any dictionary, nor is that a common usage of the word.  Where I come from if you’re a factory worker, you’re simply known as a “factory worker” or a “worker.” In fact, all the people I knew who did work in a factory, never used that terminology.  But I grew up in a big city.

  20. Super Anon

    August 13, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Just to chime in….to some people, working in a factory is harder. To others, working as a lawyer would be harder. It really is about an individual.
    I do know, however, that you’re less likely to be exposed to chemicals, chop your arm off, etc when you’re working as an attorney. And, you’re compensated VERY well for your work as an attorney…not so much as a lineman at a factory.

  21. Anon

    August 14, 2008 at 7:12 am

    Super Anon, point taken.

  22. Musky man

    August 29, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I think if you considered each’s per hour compensation, they would be closer than you think

  23. Anon

    September 9, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    If you want to consider per hour compensation, then its possible a blue collar work earns more when you consider over time.  Linemen make 45 an hour in CA plus over time, full benefits, and full retirement.

  24. HLS Michigander

    November 25, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    What jerks you people are. The guy was talking to which students now? Oh yes, “an Ohio law school.” I.e. one that may not expect many of its graduates to be working at Skadden Arps.
    But there’s a larger problem here, I think. It sounds like you people are annoyed that there could be a law firm somewhere where this kind of advice is not only helpful, but followable. You’re in a miserable firm job where you can’t be enthusiastic, you can’t participate in the community, and you can’t be nice – and your response, when you run into someone (not knocking on the doors of BigLaw, mind you) who is a happy lawyer, is ridicule.
    I mean, I know the site is “Bitter Lawyer,” but c’mon – how can you people look at yourselves in the bathroom mirror each morning?

  25. TaxxxGirl

    December 18, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    I hate the implications in so many of these rants that the only “real” way to practice is at a big name firm in one of very few states. It seems to be more of a geographic issue. There are many attorneys who would get “street cred” from the author for working insane hours and big deals, but do it in a different time zone. I know you like to think that if we’re not in NYC, LA, or Chicago we don’t exist, but there are many, many successful, intelligent, competent attorneys in the flyover states as well. In fact, there are some millionaire lawyers down here who would have no concept whatsoever of how “important” your firm is, even after you list all of your credentials. Just remember that the world is a little bigger than the skyscrapers in downtown.
    Also, as a side note, it is just not possible for someone from Ohio to be a hick. As an Arkansan from a town smaller than your firms, I’m almost offended that the moniker could be appointed to a yankee.

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